Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Joy Division - Closer

Joy Division – Closer
Factory, 1980
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2006
Price: $9

I picked this up right around my Joy Division renaissance, somewhere in early college. “Ooo, Spanish Pressing,” I thought to myself, as I saw this written on the price tag and a little “Made in Spain” sticker on the back. Really, all “Made in Spain” means is that this version of the record sounds like shit. Sure, the songs are there, but it sounds pretty terrible and this isn't a record I can tolerate terrible sound quality from. I want the bass to boom, I want the drums to snap, I want Ian Curtis' voice to haunt my fucking dreams and this copy does none of those things and I really need to sell this back to Love Garden. Maybe Spaniards have lower expectations. The record also skips in certain places, which is frustrating given that there are no obvious scratches on it. Actually, my Joy Division renaissance was in 2004, senior year of high school and it was important because that's about when I started thinking of music critically. I noticed that I hated Interpol's first record before getting into Joy Division, which honestly, took a lot of work. That is, it took a lot of listens. Eventually I fell in love and it sparked my own post-punk phase. This was a symbolic change, as I replaced all the cloth punk rock patches on my messenger bag with a sole Joy Division patch. That patch was on there all through college, and when it eventually fell off I decided to get a new bag, hence the post-post-punk phase I'm currently living in. Anyway, after getting into Joy Division I thought Interpol sounded great, although highly derivative (which is why I thought Antics was their best record, as they capitalized on Paul Banks gifts as an excellent pop songwriter). Anyway, I need to get rid of this shitty copy and buy a reissue or something. This is unacceptable. Currently, it's stuck on “Colony” doing an endless skip.

Daniel Johnston - Yip/Jump Music

Daniel Johnston – Yip/Jump Music
Eternal Yip Eye Music, 1983 (Vinyl Reissue)
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2008
Price: $12

After putting this on, I realized I didn't really need to own it. Daniel Johnston, as much as I adore him, isn't one of those artists you need to have on vinyl. This was originally issued on cassette tape, and that's kind of where it belongs. That or the MP3s on my hard drive, you don't really need quality because soundwise, there isn't any. So dubbing it to slabs of vinyl is a trick to get people who don't buy anything but vinyl to buy Daniel Johnston records. And it worked, as you can clearly see. However, I won't sell it because someday I'll need to put a Daniel Johnston song on a tape or something. This has some of my favorite songs of his, but goddamn listening to all four sides of this double LP is a real slog. Yes, it does have “Speeding Motorcycle” on it, which is worth the price of admission alone. In addition to that, there are classics like “Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Your Grievances,” “Dead Lover's Twisted Heart,” the haunting a capella (if you can call it that) “King Kong” (which was geniusly redone on the Late Great Daniel Johnston covers comp by Tom Waits), and “Sorry Entertainer.” There's some really, really weird shit on here though. Like the reoccuring and repetitive “Danny Don't Rapp,” which becomes hypnotizing after a while. Maybe I'm blaspheming, but I don't think Daniel Johnston is an album artist. However, as I said, this has fucking “Speeding Motorcycle” so I'm never selling!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Girls - Album

Girls – Album
True Panther Sounds, 2009
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2009
Price: $15

After one listen to this the day it leaked, I immediately called Jon because I knew he was the only person who could comprehend what I was feeling and I knew for certain he had got the leak as well. He was three songs in, and we discussed what it means to make a fucking great record in 2009. Jon is pretty much the only person I can talk about music with. The only person I know that experiences the same kind of joy and enthusiasm upon hearing something insane. Something so jawdroppingly good it defies description or explanation. Who would have thought that one of, if not the, absolute best albums of 2009 would sound like it was made 30 years ago. Yet there's really no nostalgia, it sounds completely modern despite not pulling any modernist punches. The songs are simple, but it's the construction, the singing, the production, and the beating heart behind it conveyed through Christopher Owens' pleading voice. This is a perfect record. Absolutely flawless, and it's almost hard to say that because I'm sure if I looked hard enough I could find something wrong with it but I can't. I enjoy it too much. “Lust for Life” is one of the best songs I have ever heard in my life, you know? How can I dispute a record that has at least five more songs that are almost that caliber? The most important thing is the feeling, the way my heart starts racing during that descending melody (for lack of a proper term) on “Lauren Marie.” The goofy joy I get from the motorcycle pop of “Big Bad Mean Motherfucker.” The way I can use “Hellhole Ratrace” to sum up exactly how I feel living in Lawrence and how that song is designed to create a unique experience for everyone. Everyone can identify with that song. Every guy has a “Laura” in his life. Jon and I just talked about this last night, actually. I told him I was writing this thing and we talked about our Laura's and how we feel like assholes and long to rekindle friendship with these people, let bygones be bygones, etc. The song makes us want to do that. There's a variety here, and though it's common knowledge that everyone wants and needs a little bit of variety, it's handled lovingly. There's not pretense to it, and it sounds like a bit of fun. The liner notes read that the record was NOT recorded in a studio, and I'm kind of amazed given how fucking good it sounds. But maybe that's why it sounds so fucking good. So good that I can overlook the fact that “Ghost Mouth” and “Hellhole Ratrace” share the same melody, both songs are excellent. Anyway, this is pretty much perfect.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Jesus and Mary Chain - Darklands

The Jesus and Mary Chain – Darklands
Blanco y Negro/Warner Bros, 1987
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2008
Price: $6

This is my perfect rainy day record, and the one I left in KJHK Essentials forEVER. I don't think I ever took it out because I always loved hearing tracks from it on the radio all the damn time. This is my favorite JAMC record, and this was one of those records I longed to find on vinyl. Then one day, it was at Love Garden and super fucking cheap. An old promo copy, yes, but who cares? Honestly, every song in this record is excellent and I almost always have to listen to it all the way through every time. “Darklands” was a landmark track last fall when I didn't know what the fuck I was doing, was heartbroken and pissed off at everything and wanted to move (but wanted to stay, etc, I read into it a lot). “Cherry Came Too,” like “Taste of Cindy,” is a fucking perfect pop song and kind of a sequel to that one, I think. It's got the perfect balance of that rainy day sound and upbeat pop jams, and it's good. Way good. If you overlooked it, please don't continue to do so.

The Jesus and Mary Chain - Psychocandy

The Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy
Blanco y Negro/Reprise, 1985 (Reissue)
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2008
Price: $16

This was an impulse buy. I'd been listening to this record every time I had to go up to campus last fall and one day just went down and bought the reissue because, well, why not? That, and I think I'd just got my student loans, so I could drop nearly $20 on a record. It's on super heavy vinyl and sounds amazing. I hate to be one of those people that says “it sounds better on vinyl,” because that purist bullshit annoys me and sound quality is usually secondary to content, but fuck, this record was made for the warm tones that only come out of a turntable. “Just Like Honey” never sounded as good as when I first threw this on the turntable. This purchase also led to my discovery of “Taste of Cindy,” which I now cite as one of the best pop songs of all time. It's super short, it's fuzzy, catchy as fuck and perfect for a sunny day AND a rainstorm. I don't know, it's great. This whole record sounds awesome, except that there is another song on the b-side that sounds exactly like “Just Like Honey.” Can't ever remember which one it is, though. This is one of those records I needed to buy for my future children, you know? One they find when they're digging through my old vinyl in the basement. I'll have to teach them how to use a turntable, and like that Love Garden promo on KJHK, explain what vinyl is and why I bought so much of it instead of turbo MP3, or whatever the new format is.

Jawbreaker - Bivouac

Jawbreaker – Bivouac
Tupelo, 1992
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2009
Price: $15

So, I forgot I bought this before I wrote the Dear You entry. But I am pretending I got it in the final days of the old Love Garden. I bought this with a $10 gift certificate I found while moving, so really I got this shit for $5 which is pretty awesome in my book, because I forgot how fucking good this album is. Not only does it have “Chesterfield King,” which I can now put on mixtapes for my girlfriend (as it is the perfect mixtape song), but I realize I have a weird history with this record. In high school I wrote a short story and a play based on “Shield Your Eyes,” which I only remembered once I put this record on. I also think that the breakdown at the end of “Bivouac,” particularly when Blake screams “BIVOUAC!” at the top of his lungs is one of my top 5 favorite moments in any song ever. It's also an excellent piece of history. More pop sensibility than Unfun but more punk rock than their alleged masterpiece 24 Hour Revenge Therapy. Although they clearly realized that, and beat their punker critics to the punch in the chorus of “Boxcar.” Jawbreaker is easily one of the most important bands in my life. Easily in the all time top 5, and that's because musically, they did whatever the fuck they wanted regardless of the naysayers. Each record is more advanced than the next, getting closer and closer to figuring out how to make the most out of what they had to work with. Schwarzenbach's songwriting got better and better, and despite the critical derision of Dear You I think that's where he peaked. Where every line was packed with a kind of bitterness never fully harnessed before that. Here, it's the middle part of the journey, or whatever. The figuring it out, which honestly makes for the best music sometimes. The LP is missing the excellent “Pack it Up,” which is only on the CD version, but I appreciate the abbreviated version of Bivouac, and the “too shocking for Tower Records” cover art.

Frog Eyes - Tears of the Valedictorian

Frog Eyes – Tears of the Valedictorian
Absolutely Kosher, 2007
Acquired: Love Garden (Blowout Location), New, 2009
Price: $6

I've been trying to be a good boy and avoid the old Love Garden, which has been transformed into a blowout store, an everything must go situation. That means everything in the store is half off, which is very dangerous. BUT VERY FUCKING FUN, as I found out today. There are a ton of brand new records in there and digging for treasure in those stacks was a total fucking blast. Needless to say, I found this little gem from a couple of years ago and jiggled with glee (don't know what that means, the phrase just popped into my head and I ran with it). It's a good, weird, wonderful record, but I bought it mostly because of the fantastic cover art and the epic jam “Bushels.” There's something epic about this whole record, actually. It feels like a cohesive whole, as all Frog Eyes records have been doing for the last few years. More and more Carey Mercer becomes more accessible without sacrificing any of his weirdness.

The Jayhawks - Blue Earth

The Jayhawks – Blue Earth
Twin/Tone, 1989
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2006
Price: $10

No doubt purchased during my alt-country phase Junior year, I'm pretty sure I picked this up after digging on a few really excellent Golden Smog tracks, which in turn I got into via my obsession with Jeff Tweedy. Apparently, this album was originally recorded as demos to attract a major label record deal, which seems kind of sleazy but the thing is, this comes off as a pretty good late 80's alt-country record. It's a little flat (they're demos, for fucks sake) but the songs are there for the most part and it's a pretty enjoyable listen despite the fact that I just realized I don't really need this in my collection and will probably sell it. Ok, I'm only on “Dead End Angel” and I'm already bored by the pseudo-honky tonk. “Two Angels” is pretty excellent, but that's track 1! Getting through the rest is a draaaaggggggggg. “Commonplace Streets” is even worse. It goes nowhere and the vocal line isn't interesting in the least. It's just a fucking boring song, like most of this record.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Wanda Jackson - Salutes the Country Music Hall of Fame

Wanda Jackson -Salutes the Country Music Hall of Fame
Capitol, 1967
Acquired: Gift from Ex-Girlfriend, Used, 2007
Price: $0

This was either a Christmas or Birthday gift I got from Annie when we were dating. It's very much up my alley, and purchased due to my undying love for Patsy Cline. Jackson is probably as much of a badass as Cline, but her voice doesn't really have the capability to break my heart. Is she a good yodeler, as evidenced on “Blue Yodel No. 6?” Yes, yes she is. Is she the queen of Rockabilly? Yes, but not here. Here we just have ten songs by Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb, Tex Ritter, Jimmie Rodgers, and Roy Acuff and they all feel a little slagged off. Although, looking at pictures of her from back in the day (pre-afro), I realize that Wanda Jackson was a total babe. “Let's Say Goodbye Like We Said Hello” is pretty good, and sounds better from a woman's point of view. Mostly, though, I think this reeeealllllyyyy falls flat and I would much rather be listening to a compilation of the songs being covered. Jackson claimes that “Of all the albums [she] has recorded, [she] has never enjoyed making an album more than this one.” That's a fine sentiment, but it doesn't make me want to listen to this record ever again.

*Also, just realized that this should have come BEFORE Jawbreaker, but instead of figuring out a way to make this come before that one, I'll just leave it.*

Destroyer - Bay of Pigs

Destroyer – Bay of Pigs EP
Merge, 2009
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2009
Price: $8 (with moving sale discount)

After the fairly tame Trouble in Dreams, Dan Bejar returns with what sounds like something from the Your Blues era that he never got to let out. This is apparently Bejar's foray into “Ambient Disco,” and as awful as that could be, it's pretty fucking sweet. Or at least sweet enough for me to literally run out into the streets and buy it. At 14 minutes this is the longest Destroyer song and somehow, Bejar makes it work all the way through. Granted, I'm a fanboy and my love of all things Bejar is well documented, but “Bay of Pigs” is some next level shit. I'm fairly certain it's a one-off, and that's all it needs to be. I haven't taken the time to analyze this one piece by piece. Mostly because it's one of Bejar's more out-there works, or maybe it's not and it's all just bullshit that sounds like genius. “A ransom note written on the night sky above reminds me what, in particular, about this wine I love. Like a punctured beast better off dead, compliments going to my head... La Da Da La Da Da!” The b-side is another “Ambient Disco” tune and a reworking of one of Trouble in Dreams' best tunes, “Rivers.” “Ravers,” sadly, falls a little flat. However, given that it was one of the best written songs on Trouble letting the lyrics soak in is nice. The song just doesn't really go anywhere. Also: Best Destroyer cover art since Rubies, and best yet!

Jawbreaker - Dear You

Jawbreaker – Dear You
Warner Bros., 1996
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007
Price: $15

This is the crown jewel of my music collection and one of my favorite albums of all time. Though Jawbreaker were met with derision upon the release of this, their major label debut, I think this is a pretty fantastic record and hands down, my ultimate go to break-up record. Last summer I would listen to this with friends post-bar and we would bitch about girl troubles. Luke and I made a sort of ritual out of it after a while. Lots of blaring this with the back door open drinking the rest of the booze in my house and smoking cigarettes. All of that, a lot last summer. It's weird listening to this album while content, though. I thought I would like it less but I still think it's the jam. I can't tell if the songs remind me of my thought patterns or my thought patterns are influenced by the songs. I just can't think of an album more bitter, which is what I love about it. Because at one point in my life I was nothing but bitter and angry and this felt like what was running through my head constantly. Recently, I've achieved “Unlisted Track,” which is really just the perfect little cap on everything. The getting over it. Dear You is a letter to someone in your past, but writing that letter, no matter how bitter, mean, or pissed off it is ultimately leads to closure and resolution. Or not.